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Tolerating Bird Dogs & Imperfect People...

I grew-up in a family of hunters. My favorite season was the Fall when we'd hunt partridge, pheasant, and ducks. I was a pretty good wing shot and I loved working with a group of friends/family plus a good dog...although that was/is hard to find.

A good bird dog will find birds, wait till the right time, jump those birds and when the hunter shoots one, retrieve them. I never seemed to get the combination right over the years. First there was Smokey, actually my uncle’s dog. Smokey would point and jump them well, but then he’d only bring birds to my uncle regardless of who shot them. Also, if they fell in the water, we were all out of luck because Smokey, a Weimaraner, didn’t do water.

Later in life, I had Ginger, a Beagle/Spaniel mix. Ginger was a great dog and would find and jump birds well. She didn’t wait for me, but usually stayed close enough so when the birds jumped, I’d still be able to get off a good shot. Ginger even retrieved. The problem was, she retrieved for herself more than me. She would literally tear the birds to pieces before I could get to her and attempt, (notice the word “attempt”), to take them away. She was great to hunt with if you never planned to eat anything you shot.

In more recent years, I had Daisy, a purebred Labrador Retriever. She was awesome. Great at finding birds. She’d wait for my command to jump them. She’d even find them once they fell. The problem was, she wouldn’t touch them. Apparently, she’d been punished for messing with birds where she grew up before we got her, (I’m guessing chickens). Thus, she wouldn’t touch anything with wings. She’d just run up to them and sit down next to them. She’d then look back at me as if to say, “Hey, this is yours. I don’t want it. And don’t even think about asking me to grab it—‘cause it ain’t happenin!”

What I've come to see is that there are no perfect dogs. People either. That is, as much as we want to find the perfect partner for marriage or the perfect employee or the perfect friend, we soon learn that he/she doesn't exist.

Now while we all admit this and spout it as a cliche, our response to it is often illogical and well, ridiculous. Here are some common reactions I've witnessed to the lack of human perfection:

1. Keep hunting for it. Whether it's romantic relationships or a corporate vacancy we're attempting to fill. I've watched people waste years chasing something that we all know doesn't exist--perfection. If we know it doesn't exist, why pursue it?

2. Attempt to create it. Some of us believe our talent, patience, and skill set is so amazing that creating perfection in others is inevitable should they be given the opportunity to spend time with us. Right!

3. Harp on, and focus on the lack of it. This is the opposite of #2 above. In this case we think if we just complain about what's missing in someone, they'll suddenly become able to fix it and thus become, you got it, perfect! This is the most common approach and my only question to those practicing it is, "How's that working for ya so far?"

4. Live in the denial. In this case, people just pretend others are perfect even though they know deep down, that this just isn't the case. The ultimate example is a mother who's child is a public menace, yet she brags to others about what a model child he is. My wife is a school psychologist and lives with this daily.

None of these work!

Yet, we continue to try them.

What's better is to accept the reality of imperfection and then play to and focus on people's strengths. Now with selecting a mate, we obviously know we can't live with some things and that's OK. The same is true of hiring. A kleptomaniac with a wrap sheet miles long wouldn't make a good bank teller, for example. Still, the "little things" we decide we can live with need to be, just lived with! This is easier when we focus on strengths and leverage those.

Each of the retrievers I've owned had strengths. I learned to adjust my hunting approach to those and, we did very well together. Smokey brought all the birds to my uncle which meant I had more room in my bag for other things. He didn't do water, but he was great in the brush for hunting partridge or woodcock. Ginger was great at finding and jumping birds. I just had to be fast enough to get to them and her, before she shred them like yesterday's financial reports. I'd just give her treats to trade for the bird and all was fine. And with Daisy, I'd just get more exercise by walking to her as she sat next to my downed prey instead of asking her to bring it back to me. It was healthier. :)

So, my advice is to analyse the four common responses to imperfection above and reject any you've been guilty of. Next, I'd make a list of absolute requirements for the people you're seeking and admit that anything else is what you can live with. Finally, I'd recommend choosing to support and encourage the strengths in the people around you. You'll be happier--and so will they!


Pastor Joel

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